Parents and friends of children killed in gang violence near the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts held a memorial service Friday that was underscored by a police investigation of a murder a few yards away.
The service at the Imperial Courts gymnasium was held in remembrance of victims such as 8-year-old Kanita Hailey, killed in a drive-by shooting while playing in front of her home in the housing project in August, 1989. The group gathered around a bronze plaque bearing Hailey's name.
"I feel like it's Christmastime, and (the victims of gang violence) are not going to be here, so that's why we dedicated the memorial to them," said resident Cheryl Wilborn. "I have lost so many people."
She urged youngsters in her neighborhood to stay in school, off drugs and "just be happy."
The event was sponsored by the American Assn. of Women/South-Central Los Angeles.
"This was our way of saying we don't want people to forget," said Gwen Johnson, who helped organize the event.
Johnson said that since a gang truce that took effect this year there has been a sharp decrease in homicides in the area of the projects on East 114th Street.
Shortly before the service, Samuel Carter, 35, of Compton was shot while driving his van near 114th Street and Gorman Avenue, said Detective Roosevelt Joseph.
Organizers of the service said the homicide underscored the message they were trying to convey.